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SOUNDS

Got Rhythm

Drummer, pianist share empathy for each other's cadence.

June 11, 1998|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Frank Capp and Jon Mayer, two fine musicians who like to swing, have plenty in common. But there's one similarity you wouldn't expect: They covet each other's instrument.

"I'm a frustrated drummer," said pianist Mayer, who arrived before Capp at a recent interview.

"I'm a frustrated piano player," Capp said later at the same interview, unaware that Mayer had voiced a similar feeling about Capp's instrument of choice.

They laughed at the mutual revelation.

Capp and Mayer have a new quartet featuring guitarist Barry Zweig and bassist Jeff Littleton that makes its Los Angeles debut Friday at Chadney's in Burbank. Mayer explained his fondness for the drums, and drummers.

"Growing up in New York City in the 1950s, I got to hear the best drummers of that era," said Mayer, a bebop-rooted pianist who has played and/or recorded with John Coltrane, Jackie McLean and Chet Baker, and whose debut album, "Round Up the Usual Suspects," featured modern greats Ron Carter and Billy Higgins. "And not that I play drums, but I identify with them, which is evidenced in my playing--I think very rhythmically."

Capp said his attraction to the piano goes back to his childhood days in Boston. "Though I was already a drummer--I've played them since age 5--I also used to pick out notes on our piano," said Capp, renowned for his performances with Ella Fitzgerald, Andre Previn and his own Juggernaut Big Band, whose latest Concord Jazz album is "Play It Again, Sam."

"Soon I was playing chords, and I later used the piano to write arrangements, one each for bands led by Neal Hefti and Stan Kenton."

Capp no longer plays piano.

The idea for the new quartet grew out of a few performances where Capp and Mayer happily shared bandstands--and rhythmic empathy--first with singer Anita O'Day, then later on one of the pianist's gigs. They hit it off, said Mayer, "and I suggested we form a group."

The concept, Capp said, was to have more than a jam-session type outfit. "We're building a library," he said, which might include anything from a bebop classic to a Wayne Shorter tune. "We want everything orchestrated except the ad lib choruses. We want people to feel they're hearing a swinging, funky, organized quartet."

Using the first-rate Zweig is a solid choice. "Barry's a really good player who wants the piano and guitar to be complementary," said Mayer. And having guitar and piano together makes it a complete rhythm section, added Capp. "It expands the sound of the harmony."

Capp stays busy with Juggernaut, clinics, jazz parties and recording. Mayer works with his own trio and teaches privately. They both see a good future for the quartet.

"We intend to record it and to play festivals," said Capp.

The Frank Capp-Jon Mayer Quartet plays Friday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Chadney's, 3000 W. Olive St., Burbank. No cover, one-drink minimum per show. (818) 843-5333.

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N.Y.C. Connection: John Fedchock, the former Woody Herman trombonist and arranger, wanted authenticity for his 8 and 10 p.m. performances Tuesday at the Moonlight (13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; no cover, $25 minimum; (818) 788-2000). So the Queens resident will bring some of his stellar New York area players, many of whom appear on his latest CD, Reservoir Records' "On the Edge."

"My material is not easy to get together in one afternoon of rehearsals, and I wanted people to hear the real thing," said Fedchock in a phone interview. "So the heart of the band will be there, plus some great L.A. players."

Fedchock, who calls Thad Jones and Bill Holman major influences, will perform with such New Yorkers as saxophonists Mark Vinci and Richie Perry, trumpeter Greg Gisbert and drummer Dave Ratajczak. Angelenos include trumpeter Ron Stout, trombonist Andy Martin and pianist Bill Cunliffe.

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